Last year I was captivated by a short series on television called Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery.  It consisted of three hour long programmes about the day to day life of three Benedictine monasteries in the UK.  The commentary was minimal, the effect mesmeric.   I then read a fascinating book about Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress, written by the wonderful  Janina Ramirez.   I know, who would have thought it?  I can read!  Since then I have had a compulsion to  get away for a couple of days, on my own, for a peaceful and perhaps reflective time.   I didn’t want it to be structured or themed.  I certainly didn’t want to be bricked up in a cell for the rest of my life.  I wanted to make the rules and break them if I felt the need.   Chocolate was to be involved.   The thought of a little self-enforced solitude (and hopefully be able to get stuck into some serious writing) sounded idyllic.  To suit myself; eat when I was hungry, sleep when I was tired, have a little company when needed.

And that is just what I have done this weekend.  I didn’t wear a watch all weekend, when I went for a walk I didn’t take a camera, there was no social media.  And it was wonderful.

Thanks Mr and Mrs Bun, it was just perfect.


The Force

There I was, happily sorting fallen leaves into alphabetical order, not a care in the world, when suddenly I was overwhelmed with the sensation that someone was watching me.

Glancing to my right I stepped back, startled.  Could it really be true?  Peering through the gate was none other than Yoda of the Roundhouse, Jedi Master and champion bone chomper.

“The force is strong in you” he woofed.

“Surely you don’t mean Ground Force?” I replied.

“No dimbo” he snarled “The Force, you know the light side as opposed to the dark side!”

“Oh, you mean the trowel floating and the secateur sabre?”

“Yep, that’s the thing.”

“I see.  So how are things with you?”

“Not great at the moment, the dark side is strong, we need more good guys, come and help”.

“I am free this weekend, but I have to be home by Monday”.

“Fine, we should get things sorted by then”.

“I’ll fire up the Millenium Ford Focus”

See you next week.


Tonics and Barks

As he does most Sundays, this morning OH trundled off to buy the papers.  He returned some time later with crisps, beer and this book (oh and the papers).  That is what I call fine shopping.

I am sure I am not alone in owning a significant number of gardening books, some might say too significant.   In recent years I have slowed down my purchases, veering towards the more specialised, the ancient and the pretty.  This RHS tome, written by Deni Brown and first published in 1995, is one book that had up to this point alluded me.  An initial, excited and therefore non-focused and random, flick through the pages shows it to be a comprehensive and wide-ranging encyclopedia.  From abelmoschus to ziziphus, history, geography, design and uses, much is covered.  Of course names may have changed in the last twenty-three years, reclassification is the nature of botany, but this doesn’t bother me, these things are easily checked.

The quotation on the title page struck me as something as relevant today as it was in mid-19th century America.  Something we should remember, something we should keep close.

Six on Saturday – Tempus fugit


Pay attention impetuous youth!  All you downy-haired saplings listen carefully to what I am about to say and take heed!  The rumours that Old Father Time presses his foot firmer on the gas with each passing year is in fact a painful truth.  Was it really a week ago since the last Six on Saturday?  Hard to believe.  Quite why this acceleration occurs is a mystery to me.  I am sure it has been pondered in scientific papers and debated long into the night by academics.  Whatever the reason may be, I don’t like it.  And rest assured I will be making an official complaint to the management.  Talking of highest authority, our SoS CEO The Propagator might be able to shed some light on this annoying phenomena.  If not he will definitely be able to explain the modus operandi of this Six on Saturday malarkey.  Anyway I haven’t got time to hang about.  It will soon be next Saturday.

To begin we have a viola, one of my favourite winter bedding plants.  That is once you come to terms with the fact that it often stops flowering over the worst of the weather and you start wondering why you didn’t chose cyclamen or primulas instead.   Then, just before your patience wears  dangerously thin, it bucks up its ideas and flowers its pretty little head off.  I planted some yesterday (including this darling) in the Belfast sink at the front of our house, before which I had rammed in 12 orange and 12 purple tulip bulbs.   In my mind’s eye these will make a dramatic display in the spring.  The truth of the matter may be quite different.


As well as sorting out one of the planters I also cleared some of the rampant geranium and replaced it with an ompalodes and an epimedium.  I am a huge fan of epimediums, sometimes known as barrenwort or bishop’s hat, so it has been a great mystery (to myself only, no one else is the slightest bit bothered one way or the other) why I haven’t acquired one before.  I say acquire because this wasn’t actually bought.  It was half inched (with permission) from Lady Mantle.  Autumn colour in herbaceous perennials is often overlooked as a bonus.


I am sure that many of you are well acquainted with the common bindweed, which has the great accolade of being my favourite weed, although I am also very fond of enchanter’s nightshade.  As a child (and even now when I get the chance) I loved to pinch the back of the flower and catapult the bloom out into space.  I find pulling up the long brittle roots very therapeutic, a challenge and conundrum.  As they don’t start into growth until quite late in the season, much else gets a head start which is very thoughtful.  They are good fun all round.  These days all bets are off when they get to the stage of flowering; a quick tug and a telling off and all is well in the world again.  If only it was so simple to solve other global problems.  This one is growing high in the hedge, out of reach of my twitching hand, and was looking very pretty in the sunshine today.  It was awarded a stay of execution until I find something to stand on.

Trachycarpus fortunei

When grown well Trachycarpus fortunei, known to its pals as the Chusan palm, is a fine and dramatic specimen to grace the garden.  Here is the rub.  This specimen is not grown well.  It is crammed into a pot, fair bursting at the seams, situated in the windiest position of the garden.  It is not happy.  It is ugly and angry but defiantly continues to produce new fan-like leaves, which before too long become burnt and ragged.  Sad really.  It should be rescued by someone kinder.

To add insult to injury, the poor palm has to share it’s already cramped living quarters with a tatty old ivy.  Where this Hedera helix came from, I have no idea, possibly snaked in from somewhere close by.  In part variegated, the rest reverted to dull type, it too is struggling.  Now they are inseparable in their agony, a chimera of pain.  I think I might be getting a little carried away.  Swiftly onwards …….

Fuchsia microphylla

We will end on a happier note, Fuchsia microphylla, the small-leaved fuchsia.  Also in a pot, but a quite different story this time, it has been tended to and adored.  Although not entirely happy with the stresses of the searing summer, it is now relaxed and healthy.  At the moment is has both fruit and flower adorning it.  Even better.  Talking of fruit, if you fancy a challenge take a look at  Mr K’s SoS, he has posed a little puzzler for us all.

That is it!  Done and dusted.  See you all in the gloaming.



Double Vision


A couple of months ago Lady Mantle was invited by Max for lunch.  This was the first time that one of my clients had visited another.  It got me to thinking.

When I lived in Bristol, before I saw the horti-light, I used to visit a hardware shop not far from where I worked.  It was a traditional, fork handles/four candles kind of place.  Packed from floor to ceiling were pots and pans and sandpaper and scissors and mothballs and other such treasure.  Quite why I was such a faithful fan I can’t remember, possibly I was going through my string phase or needed to bolster my collection of galvanised nails.   Behind the counter sat one of two youngish chaps, both with a similar demeanour of “don’t bother me unless you really have to and then don’t bother me”.  They were fine once you got to know them, but were definitely disciples of the “treat them mean and keep them keen” school of customer service.

One day I was in another part of town, in desperate need of some WD40 (we’ve all been there) and I remembered that there was another outlet of this same store close by.  Perfect, my penetrating oil and water-displacing spray deficiency sorted.  As I crossed the threshold I stopped in my tracks and looked about me in disbelief.  It was exactly, I mean exactly, a carbon copy of the other shop.  The same size, the same stock in the same position and behind the counter (which was identical) the same grumpy man who gave me the very same look of disdain.  Surreal.  I poked my head out the door, just to convince myself I was where I thought I was.  Yes.  Fearing the ridicule of Laughing Boy I continued as if this absolute attention to doubleganger detail was all perfectly natural, made my purchase and left slightly disturbed by the whole experience.

When her ladyship said she was visiting I fantasized about how wonderful it would be if, after lunch and small talk, she was invited to look around the garden and found a carbon copy of hers.  There would be no looks of disdain though.  Just laughter at such jolly ruse.  It wasn’t real life after all.

Six on Saturday – Autumn Antics

It has been a rather discombobulating week, with midweek shenanigans and not much work.  The little work I did proved to be rather beneficial, it seems that I am no longer in denial about the onset of autumn.  It appears that I have caught up with everyone else, just in time for winter to rear its, potentially, ugly head.   This week I have enjoyed being wrapped up against the elements, the drizzle didn’t bother me, the urge to tidy was strong and truly enjoyable.  So much so, I worked in my own garden yesterday, before the “weather” arrived and I was reluctant to come in when it did.  Today I will be celebrating the autumn garden. Well my autumn garden anyway.  Six things in fact, which is just as well as this is Six on Saturday time again.  Swan on over to The Propagator’s site to discover what it is all about Alfie, where to send your blank cheques and read contributions from other mugs like myself SoSers.

First we have more from the Bed of Anarchy, which on reflection does sound like a death metal band.  The late flowering cerise cosmos are supporting themselves on the now monstrous Lycianthes rantonnetii.  This Paraguayan nightshade is also commonly known as the blue potato bush, neither of which are particularly decorative names, and has grown to its predicted 2m in one bizarre growing season.   Whether or not it will be allowed to stay is the subject of heated debate (with myself and therefore could run for weeks).  It may be located to someone with a more appropriately sized garden.


Next we have some pyracantha fruit, admittedly looking quite beautiful.  I may have mentioned it before (perhaps one hundred times) but I am not a fan of prickly plants.  And they know it.  This one, purchased by OH, is in a pot and has viciously stabbed me on numerous occasions.  Intentionally.   It knows it is quite safe.

Salvia 'Phyllis' Fancy'

Now for a newbie to the Heavenly Horti Family.  This is Salvia ‘Phyllis’ Fancy’ gifted to me by my old friend Hero.  I have long loved this salvia; hardy and long flowering and of course dreamily delicious with its violet calyx and tinged white flowers.   It was necessary to prop her up against the scaffolding for a spot of industrial chic and the fact that she is rather floppy.  At present she is banished to the naughty corner, as she brought a cargo of unwelcome whitefly with her.  All the same, a lovely present.

Honeysuckle berries

Onto more fruit, this time of the honeysuckle.  These strawberry jelly orbs are tasty morsels for hungry birds, fresh flowers are opening on a daily basis and it is quite thornless.  Am I making myself clear?


Now we have a slightly battered flower of the osteospermum that never sleeps.   A slight exaggeration perhaps (moi?).  The Beasts stopped it in its tracks, but after a rather harsh chop back earlier in the year and some encouraging words it has come back fighting.  Always a joy.

Salvia leucantha

Lastly we have Salvia leucantha, doing a fine impersonation of a purple wet dog.  It has been featured before, but realistically this is going to happen more often as the year progresses.  I am hoping that rather like myself, your memories are more patchy than photographic.

That’s it!  Another SoS completed!  Thanks Mr P for your leadership.  Same time, same place?



Thelma and Aunty Louise


One of the many benefits of my job is that, whether I’m looking for them or not, I acquire new friends along the horticultural way.  As a matter of course my employer ends up becoming my buddy as well as my client.  Perhaps I should warn people of the risks involved before they take me on.

Tomorrow I am going on a road trip with Nancy Nightingale.  We are going all the way to Cardiff to what I believe is called a “gig” in modern parlance, after which will be staying at an, almost inevitably, dodgy hotel.  The band is a Swedish sisterly duo called First Aid Kit and one of their songs is on my “imagined” greatest hits album.  This is in partnership with my esteemed singing teacher who sings over my mistakes.  My Mum, with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek, said “if they need a break you could always take over”.  It will be risky to rely on them to need the toilet on demand, we may need to plan a stage invasion.  I just have to work out how to get a step-ladder through security.

It should be a fun couple of days, involving music and plants and laughing, some of my favourite occupations.  However, I am a little nervous.  NN is a fully paid up, card holding, Rock Chick.  I am, a rather scruffy, definitely uncool gardener.  This presents one almost insurmountable problem.  Seriously folks, WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?!!!

This Tibouchina urvilleana, gifted to me by one of my clients turned friend, the lovely Penny (Mrs Fish).  She headed south for the summer and hasn’t returned.  And I miss her and her gang.